It was Thursday evening, I just got off work at 5 PM and was waiting on a reply from the group chat with my sisters and cousin. Where were we going to freakin’ eat?! And when I mean “waiting” on their reply, I really mean I was blowing it up because nobody was responding to me. I told them to figure out where we were eating by 5 PM so I could Uber there ASAP to save time. But here I was, 5:05 PM with all the crickets. Anyways, that night, we were going to watch Jo Koy, a Filipino comedian. We followed him throughout his career and that night, we were finally going to see him live at Chase Center in San Francisco.
Finally around 5:15 my cousin texted the destination spot. The show started at 8, so I didn’t want to risk it for the biscuit by being cheap. I called an UberX to get to Mi Lindo as soon as possible. I waited outside on the sidewalk waiting for my Uber. All I could think about was how tired I was. I was thinking of taking a nap during my Uber car ride, but I was hesitant because of all those creepy Uber ride horror stories. My Uber driver turned the corner and in no time was pulled over right in front of me. I got in and did the basic greetings and confirmation on who the ride is for.
After about 3 minutes into the ride I feel myself wanting to doze off. Working at a preschool full-time got me going home at the end of the day pooped. I was thinking of taking that power nap, my eyes struggling to stay open. I usually have my earphones on during my Uber rides alone, but I was too lazy to reach into my back pack and put them on. Which was probably for the best, since this car ride would give me all the feels. There I was, tired, exhausted, not to mention hungry.
“Are you Filipino?” My driver asks me. He was a middle aged Filipino man, I would guess late 50’s barely early 60’s. But he later told me was almost 70.
“Yeah I am,” I responded happily. I had to turn on my customer service voice on. But honestly, I wasn’t really in the mood to have a full on conversation.
“Can you speak Tagalog?” He asked through his thick accent.
“I can understand Tagalog, and I can speak it,” I said. But then I started explaining myself. Yes, I can understand Tagalog completely when it is spoken to me. Yes, I can speak it, but it takes a while for me to translate what I mean and formulate it into a Tagalog sentence.
“Ah, it is because you were born here, ha?”
“Yeah. I was born here. I can speak Tagalog, but you can tell I have an American accent.”
“Oh, that’s okay. You know, as long as you can still understand, that is good.” He told me.
He kept the conversation going. He told me he was almost 70 years old, and has been in America since 2009 or 2011 (if I’m remembering this right.) He currently works 3 jobs total, Uber being his part-time gig. He is a caregiver for his other 2 jobs. He cares for elderly patients in their home, and does over night shifts. I told him I was on the way to see Jo Koy. He knew him as the “bald guy.”
“Wow, you work a lot,” I told him.
“Yes, I work a lot. To be honest, I don’t really sleep, just always work.” He explained further that of course he does sleep, but it is while on the job as a caregiver. When he’s doing his overnight shifts and his patients are asleep, he sleeps in a separate room, while occasionally checking in on his patient throughout the night.
“So when do you find time to do things you like and have fun since you work so much?”
“I don’t,” he laughed. “I like working. I’m old already. I don’t need to go to parties or anything.”
He told me how he enjoys working a lot. Working makes him happy. Sometimes when people talk about working a lot, its ususally negative. Its ususally followed by a “life is hard” speech or “all I do is work and it sucks” speech. He genuinely seemed to be content with his work load.
“There’s a lot of money to be made in America,” he told me. “You know that? If you are a hard worker in America, you can make a lot of money.”
We continued on with the conversation. He asked what part of the Philippines my parents are from, told me about his 2 kids back in the Philippines, how he came to America on a tourist Visa years ago, then had to work to remain tourist-ing. He married here in America, and his wife works at Kaiser. His daughter is graduating college in the Philippines soon and he was going to return back home for her graduation. In about a year or 2, he plans to move back to the Philippines for good.
Throughout our conversation I understood why he asked if I could understand Tagalog. He was struggling to speak English, probably the same way I would be struggling to speak Tagalog. The point was getting across, but it took a while. I thought about telling him to speak to me in Tagalog and I would just answer in English, but I didn’t know if it would come across as rude, or discourage him from speaking English. I tried to compensate by throwing in Tagalog phrases so he could understand more.
He asked about my name, and said how beautiful it was. I laughed and said my name is very Filipino since my name is a combination of my mom and older sister’s name. Filipinos love combining names to make a new name. He eagerly chimed in that both of his children’s names are a combination of his and his wife’s (the one in the Philippines) name.
He was shocked to discover that I’ve never been to the Philippines. He tried to sell the idea of me visiting with my family soon. “Oh you will love it there,” he went on. He spoke about all the Filipino food he cooks, and how his wife is chubby because he’s such a great chef.
I could tell that he just wanted to talk. I got zero percent creepy vibes from him. He never said it, but I felt like I reminded him of his daughter or something. He told me she was 20 or 21, me being 25. I think the fact that I’m Filipino made him feel comfortable. Just hearing about his life made me want to invite him to one of family parties or something. He told me it’s just him and his wife, that they met here, in America. Because of his busy schedule, I commented that he and his wife probably don’t get much alone time. From what he described, it seemed like he goes from job to job to job. The whole time I thought of how lonely that must be.
When I told him I graduated SFSU in Journalism he got happy. “Oh, you know, that’s like on the TV? Like broadcasting? You should apply! Just apply! You have a beautiful voice!” I laughed a little in my head because it’s a running inside joke with my sisters and cousins how deep my voice is. But I accepted the compliment.
He said something to me earlier in our conversation that stuck with me. When we were talking about Tagalog and if I could understand and speak it, he reassured me that it was okay if I had an American accent.
“It’s okay. You were born here, but your blood is Filipino. You might be from here, but your blood is 100% Filipino.”
We finally got to my destination. He pulled up infront of Mi Lindo. I told him that I really enjoyed talking to him, and for him to take care.
“Send my regards to your mom and dad,” he told me while waving.
I got in the restaurant, and my sister and cousin could see me from the window. My little sister commented that I was way too happy getting out of the car, prolonging getting out and saying 1 last thing before finally closing the car door. I told them that I just had such a nice conversation with my Uber driver.
Chase Center was only about 2 miles away from the restaurant we were at, so we were doing great time wise. We parked a couple of blocks away from Chase Center, but the short walk seemed longer. That San Francisco cold hits you differently at night. The kind of cold that makes your back hurt and body tighten up. Anyways, it was well worth it, paying $10 cheaper than the Chase Center parking garage.
Chase Center, the new home of the Golden State Warriors. It was a magnificent sight. It’s a beautiful stadium, and the outside of it was just as dope. It was a sea of Filipinos. We joked that we would all see people we knew. And turns out, we all did. All 4 of us.
We got to our seats, and waited for the show to start. The crowd was huge. And it was a sold out show. Finally, after much anticipation, Jo Koy finally entered the stage. He got an automatic standing ovation. I could only imagine how he felt, the stadium is huge, there were so many people. You could tell by his face that he was genuinely like, “damn, I made it.”
What makes Jo Koy’s jokes so much funnier is the fact that we can relate to everything he’s talking about. He’s half Filipino half white, raised by a Filipino mother. He may not be full Filipino, but his experiences growing up are exactly like mine. Feeling like you can relate to someone is such a great feeling. Especially since he’s made a name for himself, he’s telling the Filipino narrative.
I’ve watched Jo Koy since he was on the Chelsea Lately show. Honestly, I would get a little bummed when Jokoy wasn’t in an episode. They would cap on him for being Asian, and the running joke was that they never got the right type of Asian. He would always talk about him being Filipino, and growing up I got a sense of pride from that. Nothing more rewarding than seeing your people on the screen, and it’s a cherry on top when they claim being Filipino publically, and make an effort to rep it.
During Jo Koy’s act, he talked about growing up and not seeing Filipino people on the screen. He goes on to talk about representation, and how that shit is important. He tells the story of how his sister stitched on the Filipino flag on his jacket right before an interview. Why?
To represent all the Filipinos out there, but to also inspire other Filipinos to dream big. He went on to talk about Manny Pacquiao, and how he was killing the game in the name of the Philippines. And how proud he was to see Manny on the screen. And I can relate to that so hard.
I remember when Manny was first coming up, before he was the main event, before all the fame. We were in my aunt’s living room, and he was an under card fight. When Manny won, they lifted the Filipino flag behind him. “Oh, he’s Filipino?” I remember my dad saying. And then Pacquiao got bigger and bigger, and made/ is continuing to make history. I felt that shit. The pride and admiration Jo Koy was talking about, I can relate.
Everytime there is a known Filipino doing big things in America, best believe that person will be on “Balitang America” (a Filipino news station that reports on American news that relates to Filipinos). Jo Koy is right, growing up, there wasn’t enough Filipino representation in the media. So when there was a known Filipino, we repped them, claimed them, and supported them regardless.
From Manny Pacquiao, to Jo Koy, to Apl.de.ap, to Rob Schneider, to Bruno Mars, to Shay Mitchell. Once we learned of their Filipino heritage, us as a community support them like super fans. It gives us a sense of pride to see someone that looks like us on the screen.
Jo Koy tells the Filipino narrative through jokes. He sheds light on issues in the Filipino community, like holding grudges and not talking things out. This is a topic I’ve talked about with my cousins and friends! It’s some real shit. And as a comedian, Jo Koy jokes about some of the toxic Filipino traits, and even though he is making people laugh, it sheds light on the issues at hand.
“Stop that shit,” Jo Koy said when talking about holding grudges and going mute, “Talk! Just talk! Communicate!”
Seeing a Filipino like Jo Koy make it big makes me so proud. Having someone that represents your culture, in media that is predominately Caucasian, really does inspire other Filipinos to dream big. It’s an even better feeling when you’ve followed somebody throughout their career, and finally see them reach the top. Jo Koy said he wore that Filipino flag on his jacket to inspire other Filipinos out there, and it makes me proud. Because I have the same mentality. All these Filipinos in different professions, making a name for all of us in those fields is a beautiful thing.
I want to be successful, not just for me, but to represent my people. I come from Daly City, one of the most Filipino dense communities in America. But the fact of the matter is, once I go out of Daly City or the Bay Area, the Filipino community gets smaller and smaller. There are parts in America where people don’t even know what the Philippines is.
If you keep up with my blog, you already know I want to make it big to represent the Filipino community and shed light on Filipino topics with my writing. I can relate to Jo Koy and his need to rep his Filipino-ness hardcore to inspire other Filipinos.
Even everyday people, like my Uber driver, takes pride in talking and relating to another Filipino. When we see someone make it big and rep us, it’s a proud feeling. And I aspire to make my community proud like that in my lifetime.
One day this journalist will be getting interviewed, and they’ll ask me, “Are you Filipino?”
And I’ll respond with a proud, “Fuck yeah I’m Filipino.”